Thursday, January 31, 2008

Homestudy Passed!

Hooray! Today marks a pretty big milestone in our adoption process - our homestudy interview is over! Yep, the social worker from our homestudy agency in Salt Lake has confirmed that we are fit parents with a safe (enough) home for our daughter!

Ok, I know that it sounds silly that we would fret about our homestudy interview, but it is a rather intimidating thing to know that someone is coming to see if your home and family is ready for another kiddo. I think that Steve took it the hardest, since keeping the house standing falls mostly into his camp, but he did a fabulous job cleaning and tidying and organizing (spring cleaning a little early!) and the house really did look nice.

So, what was our homestudy like? Well, the social worker came over for about an hour and a half this afternoon and asked us all sorts of questions about how we met, the strengths of our marriage, why we like being parents, and our preparation for adoption. She was really cool and gave us some great ideas of books to read and other folks in the area to contact who have adopted internationally, which is really important, especially in glorious "white bread" Utah. Her laid-back style definitely put us at ease and I have to say that it was actually kind of fun to tell her about what we love about each other, what we like to do as a family, etc. Oh, and she talked to the boys briefly about their interests and how they feel about adoption, which gave Ben a fantastic opportunity to show off his Russian vocabulary! The latest phrases he is trying to learn are "red light," "yellow light," and "green light" so that he and Sam can play Red Light, Green Light with their sister in her native language. And the social worker said several times how beautiful the boys were so, of course, I warmed up to her right away :)

So, what's next? Once we get our typed up homestudy report, we send it in to CIS (Citizenship and Immigration Services) and that's the last big piece of paperwork to complete! We have a few other forms to get together and lots of our own signatures to get notarized, but the CIS form is really the last big piece - hooray! Our hope is to have our dossier completed by the end of February and if we can do that then we should be on track to travel this fall (again, if the stars all align) because our agency is still advising 4-6 months from completed dossier to referral or invitation to travel to Kazakhstan (that's for dossier translation and then all of the processes in Kaz that our paperwork has to go through). The CIS process is kind of cumbersome, though, and we'll have to wait for an invitation to get fingerprinted again by the CIS office after our "Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition" is processed. We'll keep you posted - here's hoping and praying that our paperwork continues to move along with astounding speed!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Ben is the Sweetest

Ben is just the sweetest little guy, and he is so excited about his new sister! Yesterday he asked if his sister would be home before his birthday party and when I told him that she probably wouldn't be home that quickly through tears he explained that he was really sad because he wanted to introduce her to all of his friends at his party. Never fear, though, he bounced right back when I said that we could have a separate party to welcome her and introduce her to his friends once she got home!

And I overheard him telling Sam yesterday that when he met his sister, he would say "Pree-vyet" (that means "hi" in Russian) so that she could understand him.

Those are the moments that just melt a mommy's heart.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Sundance 2008

The 2008 Sundance Film Festival is now officially over, and I have to say that we had a very enjoyable fest this year. We gave up going to Park City a few years ago and normally just attend screenings at the Sundance Resort (so much more convenient!) after getting tickets in early January at the locals-only individual ticket sale. This year we got a total of 20 tickets for 5 screenings and managed to make 4 of the 5, which I believe is a personal best (I sent work guys to the one we couldn't make, so the tickets still didn't go to waste). And getting 4 tickets to each screening is really fun because we get to bring another couple with us to each show.

This year we saw:
- puujee (Have to admit that this was the first Mongolian/Japanese documentary that we've ever seen and we really liked it... although I am a sucker for anything about central-Asian little girls right now)
- Love Comes Lately (German but filmed in English. This was the weakest of the bunch that saw, but still worth the ticket price, especially with good company and when preceded by drinks at The Owl)
- Transsiberian (Spanish but filmed in English - whatever you do, don't cross the Russian mafia! Very suspenseful, and the most mainstreamy feeling film I think we've ever seen at Sundance. Woody Harrelson was fantastic)
- Just Another Love Story (Danish film noir - intense and very well told story)

The only disappointing part of this year's Fest is that only one of our screenings had a Q&A session with the crew. Oh well, there's always next year!

Friday, January 25, 2008

A SportsCenter Tour

I just came back from a great visit with ESPN ( was my first big project with Move Networks this fall and we were doing some more research at ESPN headquarters in Connecticut) and thought that all of you sports buffs would enjoy a shot of me on the SportsCenter set! Yes, I did my best not to display the full depth of my sportsy ignorance in front of the ESPN guys :)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Adding Another Morningstar

We have an exciting announcement: We've decided to add another child to our family! And in the spirit of adventure that you've come to expect from us, we have decided to expand our family through international adoption. As I'm sure you can imagine, we are very, very excited about all of the changes that 2008 will bring to our family!

Here's a little of the back story:
Steve and I have talked in the past about being open to expanding our family through adoption, but always in sort of glittering generalities, not with a specific timeline or plan in mind. With my school done, Ben hitting four, and Sam in school full-time, it seemed like the time had come to actually make a decision about adoption, because it wasn't something that we wanted to not do just because we never decided to do it (if that makes any sense at all). So, we started to research.

There are basically three ways to adopt: domestic private, domestic foster, or international. This part of the decision wasn't too difficult... we were just naturally drawn to international adoption. As you know, we love to travel and experience different cultures and peoples and the idea of being connected in a deep way to the other side of the world is really compelling to us. There are lots of great reasons to adopt domestically and there are kids in undeniable need both in the US and abroad, but international is the path for us.

We also knew right away that we were looking for a toddler girl, probably between 2 and 4 years of age.

And then we had to choose a country. Steve was really drawn to programs that require an extended stay in-country because we want to have lots of time to experience our child's birth country and to bond with her while she is still in a familiar environment. And the more we read about Kazakhstan, the more excited we got.

Don't worry if your first response is "Kazakh-what?!?" because we didn't know anything about Kazakhstan before we started this process either. Kazakhstan is the second largest former Soviet republic, south of Russia, west of China, and east of the Caspian. I'm sure we'll do more posts on the Kazakh country and culture (don't let me forget!), but the things that initially were appealing about Kazakhstan are the stability of their international adoption program and the fact that they require a 14-consecutive day bonding period between both parents and the child before the adoption can be finalized. For some, that's a real barrier because our first trip to Kazakhstan will be between 3 and 5 weeks, but for us it's part of the adventure that we are really enthusiastic about. And, just as importantly, Sam and Ben will come with us on the trip to be integral parts of this hugely important family experience.

So then we started researching agencies that operate in Kazakhstan (if you haven't gotten the feeling yet, international adoption requires a lot of research). We cast a wide net in the beginning and then narrowed it down by looking at each agency's literature and then did a series of phone interviews with each agency on our short list and in the end we decided on World Partners. They're the largest US agency in Kazakhstan and for us the most important criteria was how well the agency is respected in Kazakhstan and how capable they are to take care of the unexpected when we are in country and we really felt great about the work that World Partners does in Kazakhstan and their relationship with the baby houses and Kazakh government.

And then it was time to decide if we were in. Even in those few short months of research and prayer and heart-wrenching discussions, we had learned so much about ourselves and each other that even if we decided that adoption wasn't for us it would have been worth it all. I love and respect my husband so much more after going through that really hard decision phase - I am truly blessed with an amazing and God-fearing, God-seeking man.

And we decided to go for it!

So where are we now? Well, we're in the middle of a truly astounding amount of paperwork, and I'm sure that if you continue reading this blog you'll learn more than you thought possible about the process of toddler adoption from Kazakhstan! If things continue to move along the current timeline, we'll be traveling in fall 2008 or winter 2008/9 to select, meet, bond with, and bring home our little girl. Oh my heavens, I tear up just thinking about it!

If you have specific questions or would like to know more about part of our decision, the process, or what is to come, just leave a comment on this blog. We want to include you, our family and friends, in this process, so let us know what you'd like to hear more about by clicking on the comments link below this and every post!

And what can you do? Right now (ok, now and always) we sure appreciate your prayers and support in this process. We pray that the paperwork keeps moving along efficiently every step of the way. We pray that God works in us and through us in the waiting times (there will be many and I am not a patient waiter) to prepare our home, family, hearts, and minds for a great big change and a colossal adventure. We pray that, just as with pregnancy, we (Steve and I, the boys, and our extended family) are moved to bond with this child we haven't yet met. And we pray that God is with our little girl, working in and around her as her perfect Father now and always; protecting her, growing her, and preparing her for a family.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Enjoying the Greatest Snow on Earth

As I'm sure you know, Utah advertises itself as having "The Greatest Snow on Earth" because the snow is so light and fluffy (because it's so freaking dry out here that everybody's fingers are cracking... but that's a complaint for another day). We actually had a pretty stinky early season snow-wise, but January is more than making up for November!

As you can see, Sam has hit the slopes with a vengeance this year and is loving it. We got him his own boots and skis so that he can head up to Sundance whenever the mountain calls and he has conquered the greens and moved on to the easy blues.

Ben, however, currently prefers cross-country skiing which, of course, means that we pull him around in his sled. He's only 4, so he's still pretty young to really enjoy downhill, and we figure that we'll just enjoy dragging our kiddos around for as long as we can. Ben also really enjoys eating snow. And when I say enjoy, I really mean it! Not only does he do the normal pick up a snowball and chow down, but if we're outside he'll dip his granola bar or crackers or whatever is available in the snow. And he thought it was hilarious to take chunks of his gingerbread house outside and dip them in the snow for "extra icing." Yeah, he's out of control... but we figure it helps keep him hydrated.

So, we've been enjoying both downhill and cross-country skiing and then also last Sunday attended church's annual tubing evening at Soldier Hollow - it was fantastic! It wasn't nearly as cold as in years past, leading to fewer tearful, wailing Morningstar children and making for a superfun evening for all. Sam actually made it for the full 2 hours of tubing and Ben held out for around an hour and a half before deciding that it looked warmer inside the lodge. Sam insisted on wearing his helmet which made me feel like a freaky over protective mother (which, I admit, is a little silly since it wasn't my idea in the first place) but he may have had the right idea since he stayed a lot warmer than Ben did in his GIR hat. I actually asked Ben if he wanted to wear his helmet, but he would have none of that.

Soldier Hollow is a nordic ski area in Heber (between us and Park City) that was created for the 2002 Olympics (a fantastic venue, if I do say so myself) and a few years ago they added a tubing hill to the area. They have a very clever lift system to drag you up the hill on your tube and then 6 tubing lanes for racing and linking up and all the face burning wind and snow you can handle. Yeah, it's awesome.

Other than that, we've had a lot of cool Utah wildlife sightings lately. There have been tons of deer and elk around Sundance lately that we've all enjoyed watching (from a distance) and on Sunday night we had two - count them, two - moose encounters! The first was on the way back from Soldier Hollow when there was a moose walking down the other side of the road. It was the kind of thing that you didn't realize happened until after we passed her and started asking, "What was that big black thing that was as tall as Rainy that we just passed?" Then we realized what we saw and started flashing our lights to warn the oncoming traffic. Our other moose sighting was even more up-close. We were leaving the Thomases' cabin on Sunday night (which they had graciously shared with us for the weekend - thanks again Mark and Cindy!) and as we were leaving the development found our path blocked by two moose. We weren't really sure what to do, so we just stayed put and watched them eat the trees and marveled at those huge, amazing animals. Eventually they did move off of the road and we were able to make our way home, but it definitely left us with a renewed appreciation for the Wasatch Mountains!

So, we're enjoying the benefits of a Utah winter in the midst of work and church and school and everything else. The Sundance Film Festival started on Friday and we have tickets to 5 screenings up at the Sundance Resort, so that'll be fun. We'll be sure to provide our detailed reviews in future postings :)

Enjoy your winter!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


Thought you'd like to hear about the boys' latest hobby - jumping out and surprising us with a tremendous "boo!" Usually it happens when one of us is coming home. The boys hide behind the kitchen wall and the parent who is already home asks the arriving parent to inspect the oven or look in the sink or check the fridge and then when they get over to the right side of the kitchen the at-home parent says the "code word" (usually something like "Welcome home Daddy") and the kids jump out from behind the wall and collapse into hysterics.

Sam is getting old enough, however, to recognize that perhaps Steve and I aren't quite as frightened as we may appear. The other day Ben jumped the gun and gave his "boo!" when I was still pretty far away. Although I thought that my frightened performance was quite compelling, Sam wasn't going to be fooled and turned on Ben with an angry, "Oh, Ben, you blew the whole thing! Don't you get it, she's only pretending to be scared!"

That's why we had to institute the codeword rule, so that Ben knows when to jump out. His timing is getting better with practice, I have to admit, although the practice element means that getting surprised is routine whenever you return home... which does make it a bit less of a surprise.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Rock into the New Year

Happy 2008!

As you can see, we welcomed the new year Rock Band style, at a Battle of the (virtual) Bands. Although the Drunk Leprechauns (that's the name of the band that we have with the Kytes) didn't fare too well in the "talent" portion of the competition, we looked darn fine, and that's what matters in the end, right?

In case you're wondering about our stranger-than-usual outfits, they were designed to match those worn by our Rock Band virtual counterparts. Yes, it was both very cool and tres odd.

Unsurprisingly, neither boy actually was awake to ring in the new year... they tired themselves out with too many choruses of "Blitzkrieg Bop" earlier in the evening.


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